With just over three weeks to go, the election campaign entered its final stretch with a particularly sexy scandal, commonly known as the “Gantz cell phone affair.” The dynamite first erupted last week, with Channel 12’s Amit Segal exposing that Benny Gantz has been informed that his personal cell phone was hacked by Iranian intelligence, obtaining access to all of its content. The report was followed by a wave of rumors about intimate and embarrassing details that were on the phone and within minutes, Netanyahu’s Twitter loyalists were hinting the incident could compromise Gantz with blackmail and makes him unfit to be prime minister. Since then, all hell has broken loose: Gantz insists there was no sensitive security information on his phone and claims this is an orchestrated Likud leak aimed at spreading fake news; Bibi firmly denies the accusations and says he wasn’t even aware of the hack.

The cell phone affair, which is still unfolding, involves all of the right ingredients to top the headlines: Iran, cyber attacks, and darknet hackers. It has already raised tough questions about the Shin Bet, the Mossad, and the National Cyber Directorate (all overseen by Netanyahu). It has the potential of turning into the Israeli version of America’s 2016 emailgate: the Kachol Lavan party has asked the attorney general to conduct “a swift, comprehensive, and determined” inquiry to discover the source of the leak, and to order Netanyahu avoid making personal and political use of agencies under his purview or intelligence placed before him. Alternatively, the cell phone affair could turn out to echo Bibi’s own “hot tape” scandal in 1993, when he claimed to be anonymously blackmailed with a video revealing an extramarital affair. Netanyahu accused his political rival, David Levy, of being behind the blackmail attempt and even filed a complaint with the police, who investigated and found nothing. Up until today, no one has ever presented any finding that support Bibi’s claim that he was blackmailed or that any hot tape ever existed.

Between emails and hot tapes, conclusions and summaries at this point are premature but one thing is widely agreed upon: the 2019 election will go down in history as one of the dirtiest races in Israel’s history. And while the Kachol Lavan campaign attempts to stay clean and tidy, Netanyahu’s battle to retain power has no boundaries and leaves no man behind. For weeks the Likud has been waging an aggressive negative campaign against Gantz and his party trying to tar them as leftists, Arab-lovers, and supporters of the great ayatollahs in Iran, manipulating and even lying about previous positions and statements in order to make the point. Daily viral videos distributed by the Likud, which are echoed by the party’s senior politicians in the TV studios, spread false claims about Gantz abandoning Druze officer Madhat Yusuf at Jospeh’s Tomb during the Second Intifada and claiming he participated in a 2015 memorial service for Hamas terrorists. Both of these claims have been refuted again and again, but the Likud machine continues to repeat them on a daily basis.

Netanyahu completely denies any involvement in the Gantz campaign accusations, but he is clearly the main benefactor of the mysterious cyber scandal that has topped the agenda and distracted attention away from his own legal troubles. The aftermath of the attorney general’s dramatic decision to indict Netanyahu for bribery and breach of trust is already old news in the crazy election news cycle, and Netanyahu’s focused and disciplined campaign has succeeded in overcoming the potential damage of the indictment and has essentially remained intact in the polls.

His main rival is experiencing exactly the opposite. The Kachol Lavan campaign has been all over the place and is steadily losing momentum. The cell phone affair won’t help them refocus. Yair Lapid has recently taken over leading the campaign, and the party is gradually adapting to a more aggressive approach; in the upcoming weeks they will try to highlight new revelations and reports connecting Netanyahu to the 3000 file (the German submarine affair), in which he hasn’t been a suspect so far. Gantz has called Case 3000 the most serious corruption affair in the country’s security history. But the latest numbers give Netanyahu and the right-wing bloc a wide lead over the center-left bloc, and political pundits are finding it harder and harder to see how that trend can change.

All eyes naturally focus on the head-to-head battle between Netanyahu and Gantz, but it is not necessarily the most important aspect of the race. The trophy will go to the man who can rally a majority of the 120 elected members of Knesset and receive the mandate to form a coalition, and as such, any victor will depend on a large number of small parties, who are all floating quite close to the electoral threshold. The latest polls show that Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu, Aryeh Deri’s Shas, and even Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s Hayamin Hehadash are all in potential danger and losing each one of them could change the whole bloc calculation. The only right-wing party that appears safe is the the Union of Right-Wing Parties, now starring in the headlines again following the Supreme Court’s decision to ban the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit leader Michael Ben-Ari from running in the party. The unprecedented decision by the court to ban a single candidate (and not an entire list) from running prompted a sharp attack from all right-wing politicians against the Supreme Court and could boost the controversial party even more. Meanwhile, former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin and his Zehut party, a radical nationalist faction supporting marijuana legalization, have been the main buzz creator of recent weeks. Zehut is now seen as a popular and trendy vote that could surprise and pass the threshold, posing another potential change to the traditional coalition-building puzzle.

All this means that April 9 will be a very long night and it could take time until victory will be declared. The devil will be in the numbers and margins that will determine which of the small parties survives the threshold. But with all due respect to the small actors, this election is all about the “B’s:” Bibi and Benny, and the upcoming weeks are expected to focus on their battle for the top, which is turning more vicious than ever.